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Digital pathology network aims to transform diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases


22 June, 2015  

Previously pathologists would have to assess physical slides under a microscope and post them by mail for a second opinion. This could result in delays and risk slides being lost or damaged.

Diagnosis and treatment of some of the most serious diseases have the potential to become faster and more accurate following the implementation of a new integrated pathology system by Labco Quality Diagnostics, a pan-European leader in pathology laboratory services. Developed by Omnyx, LLC, a joint venture of GE Healthcare and UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), the system will allow Labco pathologists to work more efficiently, viewing digitised images of human tissue in high-resolution on their computer screens from any location with an internet connection.   

Previously pathologists would have to assess physical slides under a microscope and post them by mail for a second opinion. This could result in delays, risks slides being lost or damaged and hindered collaboration efforts. It could also delay the prescription of the most appropriate course of care for patients.

Dr José Antonio López García Asenjo, Director of Pathology Diagnostics Quality at Labco explains: “With this collaboration, Labco is leading the transformation of pathology in Europe. We are breaking away from the limitations of traditional methods of analysing samples, aiming to offer faster, more skilled and more reliable diagnoses. Ultimately, we believe that the collaboration between Labco and GE Healthcare will help bring a significant improvement in the quality and safety of diagnostics in pathology.

The role of digital pathology in oncology
Around 95% of all healthcare treatment processes rely on access to pathology, from initial diagnosis of disease to assessing how a patient responds to treatment and ongoing monitoring. (1) In cancer diagnosis for example, it is the job of the pathologist to classify and stage the type of cancer so the oncologist can determine the most appropriate treatment. In cancer diagnosis, often the tumour grade can affect whether patients may be offered radical surgery, or more conservative drug treatment.

Despite their critical role in analysing cancer and other diseases, many pathologists work in an analogue world of glass slides and paper files. Cancer is heterogeneous and complex, yet pathologists have more computational resources available at home than in clinical practice. In order to be integrated into the best practice cancer care team where knowledge and sharing of expertise is critical, software is needed,” said Mamar Gelaye, CEO of Omnyx. “With the implementation of the Omnyx system, Labco is about to change this paradigm.

An exciting aspect of Omnyx and digitising pathology slides is the possibilities it opens up for computer-assisted analysis, which could have huge benefits for patients. For example there is the potential for the industry to design computer algorithms to assist in many quantitative and qualitative tasks currently done by eye, such as tumour grading.

The digital pathology network’s central hub will be based in Labco’s laboratories in Madrid, Spain. It will initially connect a network of approximately 50 pathologists in Spain and 15 in the UK, all of who are highly specialised in their respective clinical fields. There are also plans to extend to more laboratories across Europe. This will connect pathologists from Labco’s pan-European network that provides services to over 25 million patients annually through over 160 laboratories and 150 clinics in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom.  

Reference:

  1. NHS England National Pathology Programme Digital First: Clinical Transformation through Pathology Innovation page 6, http://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/pathol-dig-first.pdf.